I need a microphone
« on: June 15, 2017, 03:21:58 AM »
Hopefully I don't start a flame war with such a perilously vague question but I really need a mic to record just about everything including vocals, acoustic guitars, speakers (eg e-guitar). Right now I have one SM57 and that's it!

If you could have only one mic, what would it be?

I was thinking of a large-diaphragm cardioid FET + transformer a la U87 type mic but I have never used such a fancy mic so I will try to be open to anything.

Also it would be fantabulous if there were a $300 USD version of whatever it is. For example, does anyone have the Studio Projects C1? How does it compare to high-end large-diaphragm cardiod mics? Capsule, transformer, housing, ...?

I am a very capable builder so if there is a particular kit that everyone seems to like I would appreciate a pointer. But I would be equally happy to just buy something. I already have a few projects in the queue and I really just need a pro-level mic now.


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #1 on: June 15, 2017, 03:46:46 AM »
I am a very capable builder so if there is a particular kit that everyone seems to like I would appreciate a pointer. But I would be equally happy to just buy something.

You're a very capable builder and you're asking this in the microphone section of a DIY forum.

"Just buy something" will likely not be the answer. ;D


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2017, 04:22:13 AM »
Whats wrong with the 57?:)
Best bet would be to buy used, any mic. If it doesn't work for you sell it and try another one. You can make profit or get even with most used mics you buy.

Any mic can be good or bad with given application. DIY mics don't have very good resale value i think (in general).


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 04:24:14 AM »

Seems I was wrong.


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 04:40:00 AM »
Be it DIY or bought - "it's how you use it"... ;D
Khron's Cave - Electronics - Audio - Teardowns - Mods - Repairs - Projects - Music - Rants - Shenanigans


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #5 on: June 15, 2017, 04:45:45 AM »

Seems I was wrong.

DIY mics can be really good and cost less than a original classic. Very good capsule can cost 300$ alone though, which must be the most important factor for good sound.

If cost is not a problem one should build every classic mic, in pairs of course! These will last a lifetime and be a joy


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #6 on: June 15, 2017, 04:53:00 AM »
Buy a cheap LDC microphone (SP-1, MXL440 etc.) and exchange the capsule for a real good one.
That will give you an excellent microphone for a very reasonable price!
Optionally you can tweak the circuit, optimize the bias of the FET etc.
There is a solution for every problem!



Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #7 on: June 15, 2017, 05:05:23 AM »
The fun factor anyone?  :P


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #8 on: June 15, 2017, 06:03:55 AM »
From the cheap FET mikes  without need of modification last Rode NT1 (black) is really decent.
It's the first NT1 which stock  sounds ok. Of course it's specific like all Rode mikes but previous versions were nasty.
For mods, if you live in Europe,  i would go for t.bone sct 700 (tube) and rebuild the circuit (potentially change capsule for k47 or make eq for original capsule) or Fame C05 (FET) and change it for U87 circuit. Stock capsule is really decent if you make circuit properly. 3U Audio 10:1 transformer fit very well. Size is rather similar to U89 but it doesn't make huge difference.
For start those are pretty good options.
In SP C1 except pretty well made body but there's nothing exciting inside. Capsule is pretty good, but it use schoeps circuit.


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #9 on: June 15, 2017, 06:28:01 AM »
OK, I'll play.
You mentioned $300. Is that a reference price point or could it cost somewhat more?

A used mic for 300 could be a 600 dollar mic or more if bought new. Depending on how much hurry there is.

If you buy new, I'd seriously look at 3U Audio microphones. The name was already dropped regarding transformers. But the owner, Guosheng Zhuang, makes whole microphones, too. He's a veteran capsule maker, so you shouldn't worry in that department. And his mics have discrete electronics of good quality. Furthermore, you buy directly from the maker, so there are no middlemen (wholesale, retail). I personally don't know better bang for the buck new mics.
His Warblers come in six different flavours, all with a large diaphragm capsule, either centre or edge terminated, and all tuned or voiced differently.  Plus they have one of the aforementioned trannies.
Cardioid only is about 270 including shipping and multipattern is 349, from the back of my head.

He also offers trannyless LDCs, for even less (129 single, 199 for a pair!).

Yes, modding is a good option, too. E.g. we recently had a long overdue thread about modding a Behringer B2 Pro.

All that said, if I were a very capable builder, which I have to admit I'm not (yet?), I wouldn't think twice and build myself a dream microphone or two.  :P :P :P


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #10 on: June 15, 2017, 06:56:28 AM »
Oh, and a few workhorses to "bang around" (where 57s won't do).


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2017, 07:08:16 AM »
for me, putting a high end capsule in a MXL,Fame,Apex,etc... is like putting a V12 in a WV polo, or like changing the pickups on a fender Squier, it will sound better but never sound like an USA
don't expect it to work like a high end mic even if you rebuilt the headamp (resonances inside the body, in the HighZ section, among others things...) or you need to  deeply modify the body...
my 2 cents
buy a good body (flea for ex) and take care of ALL the details, or stay with a cheap but decent stock mic like SE 2200a or NT1a
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 08:37:16 AM by granger.frederic »


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2017, 10:23:06 AM »
It depends what you are going to use a microphone for...
Remember that his budget is only $300.
I'm afraid that isn't enough for a Flea body and a high quality capsule!
(Anyway, compared to an SM57, I suppose any microphone is an improvement...  :P )
There is a solution for every problem!


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2017, 10:55:33 AM »
i guess it's for audio recording ...  ;)
i'm kidding...
i agree , for 300euros , i wouldn't bother me to buy a cheap chinese capsule and cheap mic for modification, but i would choose a decent stock mic
today cheap mics are good enough to make some semi pro recordings

here's a big shootout but you must be leery as it can't be very impartial : https://www.sweetwater.com/feature/vocal-mic-shootout/
« Last Edit: June 15, 2017, 11:03:40 AM by granger.frederic »


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #14 on: June 15, 2017, 12:55:37 PM »
If I'd have the one mic choice it would def be an EV Re-20.
It's a great mic on so many things.


Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #15 on: June 15, 2017, 07:03:58 PM »
What great answers! Just the right mix of know-how and comedy.

So it sounds like the capsule is rather important. I guess my budget is whatever it needs to be to get the critial parts right. If that means something with a $300 capsule in it then so be it.

Honestly the rationale behind just buying something as opposed to DIY-ing a mic is that it seems like there's a lot of voodoo and BS going around the web. How do people test their mics? Do you have an anechoic chamber and a spectrum analyzer? Probably not. Mics (and voice coils) are a little hard to test. It's limited to relative measurements (before / after replacing a part) or only analyzing electonics after the capsule (which says nothing about the basket, capsule, polar pattern, etc). So a lot of information about DIY mics is highly subjective. This means you have to trust the manufacturers which means either just buying a known good mic from a respected manufacturer or the buying the the parts from a well known respected manufacturer (where do you buy a genuinely good capsule?)

At this point it sounds like buying a cheap mic and then swapping out the capsule might be a decent strategy.

What donor mic?

Incidentally, as described here http://www.rane.com/note165.html are there mics that are known to have an issue with pin1 to the shell? You can see in this pic:

the SMD version of MCA SP1 is actually correct with the little piece of buss wire between pin1 and the shell (assuming that solder lug is actually screwed into the shell properly). Even though the PCB is SMD, is there a good kit for this body that would warrant just replacing the PCB entirely?

Other than the capsule, what do you consider to be critical parts?

I saw a website that claimed changing the coupling cap to poly or mica improved distortion significantly. Reality or voodoo?
« Last Edit: July 09, 2017, 12:56:49 AM by squarewave »

Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #16 on: June 15, 2017, 10:26:28 PM »
Hi Square ,
Heres a link to a great article by Dave Royer on making your own tube mic .
Theres a lot of talk on forums about  using this or that body, capsule  ,the reality is even a budget off the shelf transistor
large membrane mic can be converted for pocket change into very decent tube mic .
Granted it will have a different response than say something with a very expencive Neumann capsule ,but thats not to say it wont sound good either.
The first tube mic I made was using a behringer B-2  capsule and body , I ripped out the all the the transistor  electronics ,
then mounted a ptfe 9 pin tube socket onto the underside of the detachable mic head , I used a sowter mic input transformer in reverse through a coupleing cap from the anode of an Ef86 ,circuitwise its a bit like a u47 ,100kohm anode load ,diaphram connected to grid directly ,polariseing voltage(60volts) applied to the back plate ,swapped out the 3 pin xlr for a seven pin and of course the powersupply had to be constructed .
Theres many hybrid tube transistor mics out there they of course come with powersupply, 7 core cable etc all you really need to do is ditch the transistors and find a decent transformer and do a small rewire of the tube circuit .Of course theres many third parties offering off the shelf upgrades for easily available mics too ,thats another option.
The resulting recordings Ive got from my modded behringer compare very favourably with mics costing into the thousands . For me at least going the diy route was well worth the extra effort and saved me a packet .

Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #17 on: June 16, 2017, 11:30:13 AM »
Sorry but i totally disagree ...
please keep in mind that my post is not a personal attack but more a passionate testimony...

when i see a probable 1 giga ohms resistor (red one on right) touching the metalwork (body) , your microphone can't work nicely...
all the vibrations are going to pollute the capsule signal...
i add that a 8230 sowter has a 5:1 ratio and is not the best choice for a ef86 even in triode mode

building mics is almost lutherie because of the ultra high impedance section, the transducer principle and the presence of a tube that can be microphonic, among A LOT of other things ...

i'm not saying that you can't achieve a good microphone with a cheap body but i say that i will more difficult and it will need some deep modifications and a lot of knowledge to take care of all the details...

it's not impossible at all, but it seems to me more complicated than putting everything inside without attentions or just changing the  capsule , and posting on various forums after, pretending that it sounds like a thousands $ mic...

with a small budget , i would stay  with a good stock LDC , the net is full of shoutouts and reviews,
however if you plan to build a very good one because you are passionate and you want to approach  the sound quality without paying 5 to 10k$, then you need a good body (1500$) or a chinese but with deep modifications (400$ + lot of time + knowledge)
you need a good capsule (thiersch,campbell,beezneez,heiserman,dan bouchard...) around 300-500$
a good transformer (cinemag,lundhall,haufe,samar,sowter,ami...) min 300$
a good PSU 150$ min (you must mod the original noisy stock one)
a good and suitable (selected) tube 100$ min
good cables 50$
good connectors 100$ min
good components around 300$
total around 1800$ and it's the ABSOLUTE MINIMUM to have a good result,  and i don't talk about the time spent...
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 02:43:11 PM by granger.frederic »

Recording Engineer

Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #18 on: June 16, 2017, 01:57:46 PM »
I suppose it comes down to what "good" really means... But an absolute minimum in caps at $1800 for good? I would easily say around half that is a sufficient minimum; though certainly not an absolute minimum at all.

And as for lower than that good ones, one off the top of my head is the Jim Williams AKG C414 B/ULS mod.

I do agree that minimum is taking a used mic with a decent circuit and components and at least replacing with a good capsule, most-likely not Chinese, though they've been getting closer every year for a longtime now.

Re: I need a microphone
« Reply #19 on: June 16, 2017, 02:26:25 PM »
I agree
chinese capsules and mics are better these days, and that's a good thing ...
however,(fortunately)  there's still a big gap between a good 300$ mic and an high end mic (elam 251 for ex...)
i'm trying to say that this  gap is quite difficult to pass in DIY world, without a specific knowledge  and a substantial budget
i can also say that i'm still searching the gap between a stock c414 b/uls and a 300$ good chinese mic, but i admit that i've never tested one with a jim's mod...
i have in my stock two recent akg nylon ck12 type capsules and i can say that it isn't in the same league than a campbell CT12, but i'm doubtful that just a capsule swap could change a c414 b/uls into a classic mic which can compete with a healthy vintage C414eb with a brass CK12 (3000 to 3500$)
if jim's achieved that then : respect..
this is pure speculation because i know that jim has the mics  knowledge ,i don't know the mod price and details , and i've never tested one...
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 03:07:24 PM by granger.frederic »